WASHINGTON – The human rights situation is worsening as the worldwide system for protecting human rights continues to weaken,Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
The group cited what it said were insufficient prosecutions of those responsible for the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Darfur,Sudan,genocide as threats that could weaken the pillars of international human rights laws.
While the two issues are “not equivalent,” the vitality of global human rights depends on a firm response in resolving alleged torture and mistreatment of detainees in Iraq and forging peace in civil-war-torn Sudan,Executive Director Kenneth Roth said.
In Darfur,the massive ethnic cleansing,which has claimed an estimated 70,000 lives and displaced some 1.6 million more,has sparked much international denunciation “but little effective action,” Roth said.
The 509-page Human Rights Watch World Report 2005 criticized the international response that has done a little more than “condemn the atrocities,feed the victims,and send a handful of poorly equipped African forces to stop the slaughter.”
Just a decade after the Rwandan genocide,Darfur “mocks the vows of ‘never again,'” Roth said,questioning the absence of serious pressure on the Sudanese government to finally put ethnic cleansing to an end.
“The crimes committed in Darfur must not go unpunished,” Roth said.
But it seems like when Darfur cries out for help,major military powers have something more important to do than saving lives,Roth said.
The United States,along with other western governments,decided to hand the problem in Darfur to the ill-equipped African Union that does not have the military experience of the scale needed,Roth said.
The report also criticized other countries for limiting their efforts,meaning they are not involved in more troubled places. For example,he said France is committed elsewhere in Africa,Canada has cut back its peacekeeping missions in Africa and Iraq and the European Union has deployed forces mainly in Bosnia.
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal meanwhile shows the apparent refusal of the U.S. government to see justice done at home,Roth said.
Roth said senior administration officials have blamed the prison scandal on the “aberrational conduct” of young soldiers instead of accepting responsibility themselves.
“Washington's record of promoting human rights has always been mixed,” he said,adding that for every rights offender the U.S. government berated,another one is ignored or supported.
Such a double standard has sent the wrong signal,making it easier for governments around the world to cite the U.S. example as an excuse to ignore human rights,the report said.
The report noted that Russia cited Abu Ghraib to blame abuses in Chechnya on low-level soldiers while the Malaysian government justified detention without trial by invoking Guantanamo,the U.S. military prison in Cuba where the abuse allegations date back several years.
“Governments facing human rights pressure from the United States now find it easy to turn the tables,” Roth said. “Washington can't very well uphold principles that it violates itself.”
The annual survey featured four essays addressing global concerns on human rights developments and summaries of key human rights issues in 64 countries.
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department said he was unable to respond to the report and referred questions to Michael G. Kozak,the acting assistant secretary for democracy,human rights and labor,who was not available for an interview.
The entire report is available at http://hrw.org/wr2k5/.